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The 14 men and one woman from throughout Southern Maryland saw an online invitation last summer to come to a home in St. Mary’s County and have sex with a prostitute, according to a prosecutor, but the would-be customers instead were charged in a police sting operation.

They arrived last week at a St. Mary’s courtroom to plead guilty to a misdemeanor prostitution-solicitation offense and receive a 10-day jail sentence, suspended to 18 months of unsupervised probation. They also were called upon, in most cases, to pay a $500 fine and perform 24 hours of community service to receive probation before judgment, removing the convictions from any criminal record.

Their apologies and remorse for the offenses that in some cases effected their livelihood and lives at home were acknowledged by a judge who heard their guilty pleas.

“A lot of the consequences are outside the courtroom,” St. Mary’s District Judge Christy Holt Chesser said during Thursday afternoon’s proceedings.

Arnold N. Gelfand, a 48-year-old Leonardtown resident, was the first to be called to the defense table. Moments earlier, his lawyer met in chambers with the judge and prosecutor and emerged to herd his fellow defense attorneys out of the courtroom for a brief conversation before the plea hearings began.

Gelfand had a wife and two adult children and a 16-year career as a program analyst, which had led to an offer of a new position with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, according to his lawyer, Thomas A. McManus.

“When his photograph appeared in [a news]paper, he lost that position,” McManus said, and Gelfand and his wife are now separated.

McManus said, “He fell into the trap laid by the sheriff’s department.”

“I was simply looking for potential companionship,” Gelfand said.

St. Mary’s sheriff’s vice narcotics officers alleged at the time of Gelfand’s arrest that he paid an undercover officer with marijuana for a specific sexual act. A charge of the possession of marijuana against Gelfand was dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

As in Gelfand’s case, 68-year-old Chester Stanley Jaworski of St. Leonard responded in August to an online advertisement on Craigslist, the prosecutor said, that was posted through a sheriff’s office investigation dubbed “Operation Risky Business.”

“Many of these gentlemen are in the same predicament,” St. Mary’s Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel White said.

Larry Lamson, Jaworski’s lawyer, said his client is a former Calvert County school teacher, whose wife died about a year before his arrest.

Brett J. Kina, 33, of Charlotte Hall went to the residence to engage in sex in exchange for “something of value,” according to the prosecutor, which vice-narcotics detectives had alleged was money and some marijuana. A misdemeanor drug charge against Kina was dropped as part of his plea agreement.

Kina’s wife was in the courtroom, according to his lawyer.

Edward Allen Pritchard III, 20, of Waldorf also went to the home in the Wildewood neighborhood in California to provide money in exchange for sex, the prosecutor said.

“This has been quite an experience for him,” Robert M. Johnson Jr., Pritchard’s lawyer, said during the hearing. “He has learned quite a lesson.”

Joshua R. Fisher, 23, of Lusby works as a dishwasher, his lawyer said during his client’s plea hearing, adding that Fisher’s mother was attending the proceeding.

Roger Dean Stanton, 38, of Leonardtown previously worked as an associate professor of psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He was initially placed on leave without pay and banned from the campus after his arrest.

“He lost that job because of this incident,” Daniel Slade, Stanton’s lawyer, said at the hearing.

The prosecutor said Stanton went to the residence to have sex with a plainclothes police officer in exchange “for something of value,” which detectives alleged at the time of the arrest was 10 oxycodone pills. A drug possession charge and an additional charge of the possession of marijuana, were dismissed through the plea agreement.

“I deeply regret my actions [and] the consequences of them,” Stanton said, and he turned toward his wife seated in the courtroom. “I’m sorry for a violation of our marriage,” he said, “and putting us through this.”

The judge gave credit to Stanton for pursuing counseling after his arrest, by not requiring community service in his case and suspending $250 of his $500 fine.

Eric Antonio Hernandez, 37, of California told a court commissioner after his arrest that he works as a client services manager with the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland.

“It’s been the biggest mistake of my life,” Hernandez said during his plea hearing on the prostitution charge. “I’ve learned a very difficult lesson.”

Lance Colin Mutch, 37, of California is on active military duty with the Navy at Pax River and was “disciplined by his command” as a result of his arrest, according to his lawyer, Thomas Pyles.

Michael Lindberg Mason, a 47-year-old married Waldorf resident working full time for the Fannie Mae mortgage association, according to his lawyer, said to the judge during his plea hearing, “I will pay for this for the rest of my life. This is not my character. I’ve shocked a lot of people.”

Matthew E. Baker, 49, of Piney Point had a 25-year Navy career, earned two master’s degrees and “top-security clearance” and works on base as a defense contractor, Pyles said at Baker’s plea hearing, adding that Baker and his wife now are separated.

Todd B. Summers, 48, of Hampstead lost his job as a mechanical estimator, according to Sarah Elkins, his public defender, and he now is working to “rebuild the trust” of his wife as he undergoes counseling and takes part in a recovery program.

“It took this arrest for me to realize I have a sexual addiction,” Summers said.

“You have taken an extra step here,” Chesser said as she did not impose any community service requirement for Summers and set his fine at $250.

Adam K. Hay, 27, of Great Mills told a court commissioner that he works as an air traffic controller for a contractor at Pax River. “He obviously knows what he did was a big mistake,” Bryan Dugan, Hay’s lawyer, said at his client’s plea hearing.

Joseph K. Konanui, 35, of Lexington Park also works for a contractor, with a security clearance, Dugan said during Konanui’s plea hearing.

Paul Mel Corbin, 28, of Waldorf was brought from a holding cell to the courtroom, where Elkins, his public defender, said that because of Corbin’s arrest in the prostitution sting, he will have to serve one year in custody on a parole revocation take from a second-degree assault conviction. The judge imposed a concurrent 10-day sentence upon Corbin’s guilty plea in the prostitution case.

The lone woman called to the defense table, 22-year-old Crystal F. Kirven of Lusby, received a suspended 10-day jail sentence, with the established fine and community service requirement, on her guilty plea to a prostitution-solicitation offense. Joseph Welch, Kirven’s lawyer, said in court that she works as a secretary in Mechanicsville.

The judge issued bench warrants for the arrest of Monroe Manley Strawn, 28, of Fort Washington and Lyric N. Carter, 19, of Washington, D.C., after they failed to appear in court Thursday for their trial on the prostitution charges.

“This case is really why the Craigslist cases happened,” White, the prosecutor, said in court, alleging that Strawn “actually brought someone here for the purpose of engaging in sex for money. Ms. Carter was brought here by Mr. Strawn.”

A bench warrant also was issued Thursday for the arrest of Lacey Dawkins-McKinney, 28, of Waldorf on a prostitution charge from the investigation.

Four additional suspects are scheduled for trial next month.

jwharton@somdnews.com

Staff writer Jesse Yeatman contributed to this report.